Monday, August 30, 2010

South Africa: Prepare for an indefinite General Strike!

Prepare for Power!
We reprint the call of the South African WIVL to prepare for an indefinite general strike in South Africa. We have major differences with the WIVLs politics and its ultra-left objectivist perspectives, in particular its syndicalism which does not tell South African workers that a general strike is a political strike that must take state power or suffer defeat. For this reason it is not enough to talk about the need for workers power in the abstract. A call for a general strike must be accompanied by a call for the formation of national strike committees and defence committees such as the WIVL makes. But the purpose of these workers organs arising out of a general strike must be spelt out. It is to take state power and replace the capitalist regime with a workers and poor farmers government. The general strike does not take power by some objective, automatic process. Without the intervention of a revolutionary party and a program for a revolutionary seizure of power, the general strike will be defeated and the counter-revolution imposed on the masses. Preparation for a general strike must be also be the preparation for power! With this important proviso we endorse its call for the preparation for a general strike and for workers occupations.

The Imperialist attack on the public sector strike is an attack on the whole working class 

The state does not want to move from its 7% wage offer because it is spearheading the general attack by the imperialists to lower all the wages of the workers; the wage settlement in the public sector will set a precedent for the entire working class. The imperialists, who are the ones that really control the economy (the mines, the banks, motor sector companies, the food monopolies, etc), want to lower the wages and conditions of the entire working class.  Last year, when Zuma unilaterally declared that public sector wage increase this year would be 7%, not a single SACP or Cosatu leader raised any objection; in other words, they agreed with this sentiment. 

All over the world, the trade union and Stalinist leaders have led the masses into defeat: In Greece, they have had 8 general stayaways this year alone, but the KKE, the Greek Communist Party and the union leaders refuse to remove the government that has handed over the tax income from import and export and the state lottery, directly into the hands of Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan Chase; in Spain, France, Germany, the USA, Brazil, Argentina, Bolivia, etc the union leaders have allowed millions of workers to be dismissed and have allowed, despite the willingness of the masses to fight, wages and conditions of workers to be cut. We have a chance to change the pattern of defeats of the working class; already there are trends in the working class around the world, turning to open resistance, building their own fighting organizations, going over the heads of the traditional leaderships, breaking with the bourgeois parties and taking the revolutionary road. 

The industrial workers in Bolivia are demanding that their union federation break from supporting the Bolivarian bourgeois government of Morales, that their union leadership be expelled and that the path be taken of class resistance against the government; the working class in Kyrgyzstan organized themselves, disarmed the police and overran the government building; the workers and small peasants of Madagascar expelled the US puppet Ravalomanana and the army came over to the side of the working class, kicking out their generals and openly claiming that they were with the masses; the metal workers of Tonghua and Linzhou occupied their factory and the main highways, stopping the planned retrenchment of 20 000 of the 25 000 workers in a privatization exercise by the Chinese government.

The ANC-SACP government is an agent of imperialism

The  ANC-SACP government has committed to spend over 4 years, R320bn, just in interest payments, to the international banks, for the electricity scam; in addition to this the international banks and their agents will gain R1 trillion (R1000 bn) from the scam electricity ‘build’ scheme. The first payment from any state revenue is handed by the ANC-SACP government, to the international banks (the imperialists); one of the main imperialist gangsters, that has bankrupted Greece through high rates of interest, JP Morgan Chase, is based within the office of Eskom to oversee the loans. Money that could and should have gone to hospitals for free and adequate health care, for free, liberatory education, for adequate housing, for a living wage for the public sector employees, is going into the coffers of the international gangsters, the imperialists. It is a lie to say that the increase of 1.6% to pay 8,6% will mean less employees, less services; the state has long been cutting down on teachers, health expenses, on housing- all they are doing is continuing the trend of being an absolute servant of imperialism, at the expense of hunger, death and starvation of the masses. The money for the increase is a tiny fraction of what imperialism gets every year; besides the Eskom scam, the imperialists, like Anglo American, Old Mutual, Liberty Life, Rembrandt, Sanlam, repatriate over R200 bn per annum to the imperialist centres; it has been the conscious policy of the state to increase the tax burden of the working class and the lower middle class and decrease the taxes of the rich, the capitalists and the upper middle class.

The world capitalist economy is in stagnation; the lack of productive growth, overall, means that the capitalists increasingly cut workers benefits and conditions, to increase their levels of profit; the imperialists increasingly turn to speculation in food, energy, housing prices, to artificially drive up prices and thereby increase profits. The ANC-SACP and Cosatu leaders are all working together with the imperialists to put the burden of the capitalist crisis onto the backs of the working class. The Cosatu leaders have failed to carry out the workers’ mandate for a general strike against the high price of electricity. The ANC-SACP leader Gwede Mantashe has promised to turn the battle into a defeat like the British miners strike of the 1980’s. The recent SACP CEC meeting of 27-29 Aug 2010 was already a meeting of the government (a significant part of cabinet) and Cosatu leaders. For the first time, 13 days into the strike, the SACP has verbally come out in ‘support’ of the strike, hardly a vanguard role.

Turn Thursday 2nd September into the start of an indefinite general strike

The municipal workers are already taking solidarity action, region by region; the mine workers, chemical, energy, paper, and now the commercial and catering workers have all indicated they will come out on Thursday 2nd September, on a solidarity strike; Gauteng and Eastern Cape are poised to come out on regional strikes as well; workers have forced the Cosatu CEC to make the unprecedented call for all sectors to come out on solidarity strikes on the 2nd September; such notice will lay the basis for the start of an indefinite general strike. However, the focus of the Cosatu and SACP leaders are on negotiations with the government, with the SACP spearheading the betrayal of the strike. The SACP does not come out in support of solidarity strikes; they do not even condemn the brutality of the police against strikers; the pictures of male policemen on top of a female Nehawu striker leaves them cold; we will expose below just how the SACP plans to betray the strike.

Steps to take to ensure that there is a total shutdown on Thursday 2nd September:

  1. Do not trust the Cosatu and SACP leaders; any proposed settlement must be discussed in mass meetings of strikers;
  2. Depend on your own strike structures; this means setting up strike committees at every workplace, in the towns and cities, irrespective of union affiliation, or whether the workplace is unionized or not, including workers that are unionized and workers that are not unionized; In very industrial area or street where workplaces are situated, such strike committees need to be set up; strike committees should be set up in every working class area, uniting employed workers with the unemployed, local and immigrant workers; in the areas we stay, soldiers should form part of the strike committees; at area and regional and national level we should ensure that delegates of employed, unemployed, students, soldiers, immigrant workers all join together in our common strike committees to give direction to the strike of 2nd September and to prepare to take the strike beyond Thursday, indefinitely. There should be regular mass meetings of strikers so that delegates can be subject to instant recall. At all schools we need to call for urgent joint parent teacher student meetings to give support to the strike of 2nd September and beyond, and to take over the schools and to run education programmes on imperialism, how it functions and how the state acts as its agent.
  3. In particular we call on workers in CEPPWAWU, Giwusa, Ocgawu to form a united front to take over the entire petroleum sector, including Sasol; we call on all the mineworkers to form a united front to take over all the mines; we call on all workers in the commercial and catering sector to form an united front to take over all the supermarkets; we call for all transport workers to take over their transport and provide it for free to the strikers to move about
  4. Workers should ensure that the action of Thursday 2nd September is of the form of an occupation of the workplaces, not a stayaway. Stayaways are part of the tradition of the SACP and designed to protect the capitalists from workers taking over the factories and to turn workers militancy merely into a pressure tool so that the system of exploitation is not challenged and the way opened for the ANC-SACP to take the lead of a negotiated sellout that incorporates the leadership into the capitalist apparatus while the masses remain in chains.
  5. Due to actions of the state in the strike with its harsh, fascistic crackdown on strikers, preparation for the strike of Thursday 2nd September must include workers right to form self-defence committees, supported by the soldiers. We call on the soldiers to take up their place alongside the workers, with the same call as the soldiers of Madagascar: “We are with the masses, we are the people, we support their demands”.
  6. We call for all strikers to hold regional summits and a national summit of delegates of workers, unemployed, students, soldiers, immigrants to plan and direct the unfolding general strike. We should invite delegates from workers and poor peasants from Zimbabwe, Madagascar, Swaziland, Lesotho to participate in the regional and national worker summits. We call to invite worker delegates from the entire Southern African region, plundered daily by (mainly) French and US-UK imperialism.
 Proposed demands for the general strike:

  1. 8.6% increase, R1000 housing allowance; equalization of medical aid benefits;
  2. limit the salaries of managers. MP’s and government ministers to that of an average skilled worker;
  3. the right of instant recall of any representative, be they councilor, MP, Minister
  4. equal pay for equal work (including immigrant workers)
  5. share all the work among all who can work, without loss of pay;
  6. wages should increase when prices increase;
  7. Expropriate all imperialist assets, the mines and banks, without compensation, place them under workers control;
  8. Expropriate the entire food sector, from the farms, to the food manufacturers to the giant retailers, without compensation, and place them under workers control;
  9. expropriate the private health care sector, without compensation, place under workers control; this will open the doors to free quality health care for all;
  10. renationalize, without compensation, all sectors that have been privatized, including the coal, iron ore and steel sectors;
  11. Down with the brutal, antiworker regimes of Swaziland and Lesotho; we call on all workers in Zimbabwe, in Swaziland and Lesotho to join in the general strike; for the setting up of strike committees in Zimbabwe, Swaziland and Lesotho, which are nothing but slave camps for imperialism; the very same imperialism that keeps the working class in South Africa in chains; Down with the anti-worker regimes across Africa.

For a general strike, not a stayaway; beware of a sellout by the SACP and Cosatu leaders

At the heart of the call for stayaways is the Stalinist notion of a 2-stage revolution- fighting for democracy first (a period of capitalism) and then at some distant future to begin the fight for workers to take power; in other words, the first stage involves putting into power a capitalist government, that opens up a period of capitalism, apparently extending (deepening) the democratic demands, and at some undefined moment the workers fight to take power; in other words workers should not take power now but depend on the black capitalists of the ANC to drive the process of a ‘developmental’ state; that is, the means of production (mines, banks, farms) should remain in the hands of the imperialists, like Anglo American and a few shares handed out to the black bourgeoisie as their junior partners; the bottom line is that we are asked by the SACP to put the struggle for democratic demands into the hands of the black middle and capitalist class of the ANC. Why the SACP calls stayaways is that they do not want the working class to take over the factories and mines as we still, according to them, need a period of capitalism. They use workers as pressure tools to beg from imperialism to allow them to be the new managers to control the working class.

Why the SACP promotes stayaways is to atomise and isolate the strikers so that it is easier for the leadership to sellout the struggle; a stayaway opens workers to victimization as they are now isolated individuals instead of being a united mass; a stayway demobilizes that masses instead of posing a united stance against the capitalists; a stayaway opens the door for scab labour to be used by the bosses; a strike is a contest for power- a strike/occupation would confront the bosses with a united mass at each workplace- the question of the who the real power is is placed on the agenda- ie the power of the workers who produce the wealth, or the parasitic capitalists who rule through the brute force of state power; if workers stay at home it gives the bosses strength; they have the capacity to wait out the strike. 

A stayaway is a self-imposed lockout, a pacifist tactic, always tipping the struggle ultimately in the favour of the capitalists and therefore the imperialists. A general strike/occupation immediately poses the question of strike and factory committees; from here grows the basis for workers power. That is why the SACP so violently opposes real strikes and at best will only support stayaways to tire out the masses and then reach a settlement that keeps the working class in various levels of slavery.

Has the past 16 years provided houses for all? The ANC-SACP have maintained the level of homelessness that has allowed the banks to push up house prices by the highest percentage in the world (about 400% over the past 5 years). They do not support mass action to fight the electricity price increase but support only ‘negotiation’- see where that has left us? As a result of the SACP the banks have increased their customers by over 2 million and they fleece us with high bank fees every month.

In the current public sector strike they blame the strikers for abandoning patients; but they forget that the years of collapse and privatization of the public health system has abandoned patients every day; the private hospitals, always half empty, abandon patients every day because they do not have the money; the private hospitals are making a huge profit as strike-breakers but the SACP are silent on this; instead they now want the National Health Insurance (NHI) to become part of the strike settlement.  

This must be opposed at all costs. The NHI will tax workers a further 10% (?) and workers may be able to go to private clinics; after the few hours or perhaps a day or so, when the credit runs out, the patient will be abandoned; the private clinics will just hike their fees like they always do, and rake in billions extra profits; under the guise of  ‘health for all’, it will really be further privatization of health care; the SACP are acting in the service of the imperialist banks that own the private hospital groups. A similar scheme in the USA has excluded 36 million workers from health care benefits but the monopolies have entrenched their control over health. 

The SACP does not condemn the police brutality; under such conditions it can only mean that they support the actions of the state against the strikers and that they support the strike-breaking actions of the state in the schools and hospitals.The main concern of the SACP is the capitalist notion of tying the increase to ‘enhanced productivity. 

What is even more damning is that the SACP favours a ‘moratorium’ on the salary levels in the upper levels of government; in other words, the SACP supports the current R1,6 million packages that the ministers get; this is nothing but the upper layer of the SACP clinging to their capitalist privileges and BMW’s. 

The SACP talks about a ‘People’s bank’ but this is just a vague phrase to disguise the reality: the capitalist banks will be left untouched; the construction companies, the cement, the brick manufacturers, the best land, are all in the hands of the imperialists; all housing is really hostage to the imperialist banks; this is just another phrase to allow another section of the ANC-SACP to become instant millionaires over the backs of the masses. Any serious effort at housing would nationalize the construction and housing sector as well as the banks.

In the most recent strikes: in the municipal strikes the ANC could not even equalize all the wages of the workers in this sector- workers had to strike against the government to force this basic demand- which has not been achieved; in the transport strike, the ANC opposed the equalization of maternity benefits of managers and workers- this demand has not been achieved; in the current strike, the ANC cannot even grant a minimal increase of 8.6% nor even equalize the medical aid benefits. In all cases the might of the police has been used to bash the strikers.

In short, the ANC-SACP has become the instrument of holding back the struggle for even the most basic democratic demands of the masses. At the same time, the only reliable force to drive these basic demands is the working class! That is why the centre of the indefinite general strike has to be the achievement of the basic democratic demands which can only be accomplished by the working class in power- no other class will stand up for this.
  • Break with the pacifism of the SACP and Cosatu leaders!   
  • Break with the bourgeoisie! Break with the ANC-SACP! 
  • Beware of the CDL (Conference of the Democratic left) which is made up of the SACP leaders who try to build a false ‘anti-capitalist’ party as a new means of controlling the masses for imperialism! Forward to working class power!   
  • Forward to an internationalist, revolutionary working class party! 
  • Forward to an organizing committee for the refounding of the Fourth International! Forward to the federation of Socialist, Workers states of Southern Africa!

Shaheed Mahomed,Workers International Vanguard League. South African section of
International Leninist Trotskyist Fraction.
ph 0822020617, ph [27] 21 4476777, fax 0865486048  web

Affiliated to the International Leninist Trotskyist Fraction integrated by
Liga Trotskista Internacionalista , (LTI) de Bolivia
Fraccion Trotskista , (FT) de Brasil
Partido Obrero Internactionaista- CI (POI-CI) , de Chile
Liga Obrera Internacionalista- CI (LOI-CI) Argentina
Liga Trotskista Internacionalista- (LTI)Peru
Workers International Vanguard League (WIVL) South Africa
Internationalist Revolutionary League-FI Zimbabwe

No comments: